Just Like Mom Used to Make (but with a Fun 'N Refreshing take!)

Edited by Deb Dutta

Some of my close friends grew up with moms who were master chefs, at least that's what I recall from my sleepover dinners: my experience was different! I love my mom dearly but when it came to eating at home, we had a choice of three specialties from mom: meatloaf, anything parmigiana, and casserole! Even for my unrefined seven-year-old palate, I knew there was more to food to explore out there! Looking back, I appreciate her efforts and that’s what Mother’s Day is all about. My curiosity for newer and better foods as a 7-year old has led me to be the experimental cook that I am, educating myself of healthier and interesting choices. So for this Mother’s Day, I decided to make recipes reminiscent of my childhood but with my own twist in order to honor her efforts.

Here are 3 classic family dishes you may have had growing up, but with a refreshing and sometimes healthier twist. These dishes evoke the comfort of mom’s kitchen’s but busy cooks would appreciate them especially for not only for their convenience but also the addition of fresh whole ingredients. Mom, I hope you are proud of me!


Casserole’s scream convenience and anyone that has ever had a “kitchen sink” casserole knows what I’m talking about. My mom threw in whatever she vegetables she had into a casserole dish and baked it until everything was nice and (over)cooked. That certainly is a great way to get in lots of vegetables, but there’s room for so much creativity: casseroles have come a long way. The New York Times recently did a great article about the revival of the casserole. Think fresh – use seasonal produce, including leafy vegetables such as kale, interesting new spices such as saffron and cumin, lighter proteins such as quinoa. Stay away from heavy sauces or cheese and replace with olive oil for a lighter meal.

Recommended Recipes: Vegetable Kugel with Caramelized Leeks (Vegan), Mushroom Kale Wild Rice Casserole


Meatloaf has come a long way since my mom made it! In fact, you can create a vegan version that is yummy using lentils and quinoa as your protein substitutes with vegetables, leafy greens, and sauces for added moisture. For instance, I like to add HerbNZest Chive Tomato Relish or Curry Ketchup to add moisture. Use ground turkey as an alternative to red meats to cut down on fat.

Recommended Recipes: Sriracha Quinoa Meatloaf (Gluten Free), Vegan + Gluten-Free Lentil Meat-Free Meatloaf


Canned tomato sauce or butter were our pasta sauce options as kids! Now, not only do pastas incorporate more flavorful and innovative sauce options, but we also we have a new breed of herbs, vegetables, fruits and even new grains using which pasta shells are made. HerbNZest Curry Pumpkin Pesto with its mild spices adds a subtle yet adventurous twist as a light and delicious pasta sauce. You can experiment with newer vegetables and herbs in your pasta sauce to put an inventive spin on an old classic.

Recommended Recipes: Zucchini Pesto Pasta with Tofu Heart Nuggets, Orecchiette with butternut squash sauce, roasted cauliflower and peas To all mom's, Happy Mother’s Day!

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  • Deboleena Dutta
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